The world champion from Bora-Hansgrohe took his third title in a mass sprint to become the sixth rider to collect three titles in the Flanders classic. Other triple winners include Belgians Eddy Merckx, Rik van Looy, Robert van Eenaeme, Tom Boonen and Italian Mario Cipollini.
Sagan sprinted to a comfortable victory ahead of Quick-Step’s Elia Viviani (Italy) and FDJ’s Arnaud Demare (France) and said afterwards it was his easiest win considering the weather conditions.
Earlier in the race, a group of six riders – Frederik Frison (Lotto-Soudal), Jose Concalves (Katusha-Alpecin), Filippo Ganna (UAE), Jimmy Duquennoy (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic), Brian van Goethem (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) and Jan-willem van Schip (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) – built a lead of 5:40 with 81km to go.
The chase started in earnest as the peloton approached the Kemmelberg climb for the first time with about 75km to go.
Belgians Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) and Julien Vermote (DiData), Luxembourg’s Alex Kirsch (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic) and Russian Vyacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha-Alpecin) broke clear from the peloton with 45km to go and caught the original breakaway just after the second ascent of the Baneberg.
This left 10 riders at the front with 39km left as they approached the final ascent of the Kemmelberg.
Behind them, Belgium’s Philip Gilbert attacked on the lower slopes of the climb, but he was soon neutralised by an attentive group of favourites.
Six riders – Vermote, Wallays, Van Goethem, Kuznetsov, Van Schip and Kirsch – crested the climb with a one-minute advantage over the field.
They were however caught with 25km to go by a reduced peloton containing most of the favourites.
The race included 11 categorised climbs and several dirt roads.
The first South African to finish was Dimension Data’s Ryan Gibbons who finished in 53rd position.